Recent research from McGill University shows benefit from methods that are similar to those used by vision educators to improve amblyopia (lazy eye), cross eye, and other problems. This research was recently featured on the BBC.
You don’t have to be amblyopic, though, to benefit from the implications of this research. Many people have one eye which is weaker than the other, and these methods are used by vision educators to balance the use of the eyes and improve stereoscopic vision. I have found in my own vision improvement that improving my stereoscopic vision makes a stunning difference to the quality of vision.
What was actually studied?
The participants played Tetris using either one or both eyes. Half of the participants followed the standard practice of completely patching the strong eye while playing the game. The other half of the participants wore special goggles which allowed one eye to see only the falling shapes, and the other eye to see the target shapes collecting on the bottom of the screen. In order to play, both eyes need to be active and work together.
The participants played for one hour per day for 2 weeks (10 total hours).
What did the results show?
Stereopsis (how well you can distinguish depth) improved by a factor of 4 for those playing with both eyes (and barely at all for those having practiced with only one eye). The visual acuity of the participants using both eyes also improved significantly more than the other group – after only two weeks they improved by about the amount equivalent to being able to read one smaller line on the Snellen chart. The participants were tested 3 months later and the results were found to be stable.
Why is this important?
This research is exciting because it brings what is “scientifically accepted” closer to what vision educators already do to teach people how to improve amblyopia and many other eye conditions. Attention is also drawn to the importance of taking care of the health of both eyes. It is known that the weaker eye can be more susceptible to further vision loss and even disease – so take care of it!
You don’t need a “special pair of goggles” or “lazy eye” to benefit from these concepts. Anyone with two eyes that don’t have the exact same visual acuity can benefit from these concepts… basically just about everyone.
Following are a few activities you can do to balance the use of your eyes. What you need to keep in mind, though, is the element of fun from the study. The Tetris game was fun, it engaged the brain more than a rigid exercize. Make a game out of vision improvement and the chances of it working are so much higher. You are interested, which is important for optimal cognitive function. And, you are more likely to be consistent with practice.
These and many more activities are described in Meir Schneider’s book, Vision for Life.
Instead of the mysterious special goggles used in the study, you can use red/green glasses in creative ways to separate what the left and right eyes see.
For example, there are playing cards that are compatible with these glasses, so you can only see some cards with the left eye, and others with the right eye. Another interesting practice is to shine a red light through a paper with red writing on it. One eye sees the light and the other eye sees the red lines. Track the line with the light (with the weaker eye looking through the red lens so it is attracted by the light). These are simple ideas, make games or challenges from these ideas that you will find interesting.
Separate the field of view
Another way to teach the eyes to work together is to separate the left and right side of your field of view. Stick a two square inch piece of paper on the bridge of your nose. Close one eye at a time and notice that you can’t see as far to the left with your right eye and vice versa. Juggle a ball between your left and right hands, or play catch with a friend – be sure to surprise each other!
There are also various convergence activities people do (Magic Eye 3D, bead exercizes). These can tend to become more like rigid exercizes, but some people do benefit from them.
As with any vision improvement activity, maintain awareness, keep it interesting, and see what happens!